ISI has a budget of $300-400 million, 4,000 employees

ISI has a budget of $300-400 million, 4,000 employees

Pakistan's shadowy Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency has an annual budget of $300-400 million and despite drastic reductions in personnel "is now assumed (to have a) base strength of approximately 4,000 (people)", says German scholar Hein Kiessling.

Kiessling, who represented the Hanns-Seidel-Foundation (Munich) in Pakistan from 1989 to 2002, has written this in a collection of essays in "Revisiting Contemporary South Asia" (Pentagon Press).

"The (real) ISI budget is top secret, only a few people know the figure," he says. "In fact officially the ISI budget today is between $300 and 400 million.

The personnel strength of ISI has also been a secret, he says. "During Zia-ul Haq's tenure it was estimated to be 20,000 men. In the 1990s and in the new millennium there were drastic reductions in personnel.

"Therefore, it is now assumed that ISI's base strength is approximately 4,000. Higher estimates often encountered in literature and the press are grossly exaggerated."

According to the author, changes in personnel policies came out in 2009 under the command of Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

"Today with the exception of six-seven two-star generals, the military personnel in ISI come from the Intelligence Corps of the army -- a move that serves towards the professionalism of the service.

"A military-ISI staff member starts his career as a cadet in combat arms, not in the medical or engineering services.

"After completing basic training comes an intelligence exam. The successful candidate goes on to become an officer in the Intelligence Corps, where he goes through additional courses," Kiessling says.

The book says that about five percent of the ISI personnel are formerly from the military on a contract basis. Approximately 45 percent are from the military.

Today, ISI has 50 percent of civilian staff members, who need to have "political knowledge (current affairs), English and analytical skills".

It says: "Today the ISI is one of the most active and best intelligence services in Asia.

"It is controlled and efficiently run -- there is no ISI within the ISI. Although officially the Internal Cell was declared closed, it still exists.

"The ISI is the eyes and ears of the military. The military forces see themselves as guardians of Pakistan's survival. Therefore, it is very unlikely that the Internal Cell was closed."

The author says that ISI has again intensified involvement in "Azad Kashmir" (Pakistan-administered Kashmir).

"The local jehad structures were upgraded again by bringing back experienced jehadis from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"Other reports speak of ISI activities in the enlisting of new young fighters."

It adds that psychological pressure was being exerted on former fighters to reactivate them in Jammu and Kashmir, where a Pakistan-backed separatist campaign has cost thousands of lives since 1989.

The book says that Indian underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, "currently living under ISI protection in Karachi", continues "to be a useful tool for the ISI".

Ibrahim, who the book says still dominates the "underground world of Mumbai and Dubai", is wanted in India for the March 1993 serial bombings in Mumbai.

Comments (+)